Ofcom has introduced rules that mean UK telecoms customers must be notified when their contract(s) are nearing their end, and what can be saved by signing up to a new deal. The new rule came into force this weekend. Furthermore, if you have a contract term that is already completed, you must now be reminded of this.
It is estimated that 20 million telecoms customers are currently out of contract and paying more than they would need to if they signed up to a new deal today. That figure includes 8.8 million broadband customers, according to Ofcom, and 25,000 broadband users reach the end of their contracts on any given day. Usually, says the telecoms watchdog, the end of the broadband contract comes with a price rise, as special offers, contract term discounts, and similar promos run out.
Research shows that 16 per cent of broadband customers don't know whether they are in-contract or not, and this figure rises to 21 per cent for over-55s. Under the new mandatory end-of-contract notifications rule, customers like these should become well aware that it is time to consider switching or renegotiating a deal. Phone, broadband and pay-TV companies will have to warn customers between 10 and 40 days before their contract comes to an end - which should provide plenty of time to get on the phone or online to check for a good switching deal.
On the topic of deals, Ofcom research says the average customer would save £100pa by renegotiating with the current broadband supplier at end of contract. This figure jumps to an average £150pa or more if the customer decides to move ship. More startlingly "around three million out-of-contract broadband customers could actually upgrade to a higher-speed package with their provider and pay less than they do now," according to Ofcom.
Ofcom says the telecoms company alerts can be sent via text, email or letter. Whatever the medium, they must include the following information:
- when your contract is up;
- what you've been paying until now, and what you'll pay when your contract is up;
- any notice period for leaving your provider; and
- your provider's best deals, including any prices only available to new customers.
Point three looks like it could cause a few wrinkles, depending how late you receive your end of contract notification. I think Ofcom could have quashed the notion of notice periods for those out of contract.
Mobile contract savings
Looking more closely at Mobile contracts, savings from keeping an eye on your contract and acting accordingly are also very worthwhile. Ofcom found that mobile customers who bought a contract with phone could switch to SIM-only at the end of their contracts and save an average of £75pa, with a number of customers easily saving up to £150pa. There are currently 1.4m consumers sitting on these uneconomical plans.
With the above new rules in force, Ofcom has launched a new advertising campaign to help raise awareness of contract terms. Another important aspect of the campaign is that it intends to reassure those worried about the switching process. You can head on over to Ofcom's new dedicated advice hub if you would appreciate a bit of hand-holding as you check if you are in contract, use a price comparison site to check the best deals, and contact existing and new providers to get the best deals.